Cutting down longsticks always makes for an interesting topic of discussion. We got a great request for some thought on this topic, so here it is. You asked for, you get it. As long as it’s a good question, and this was one is GOOD!
Whether we’re talking about shaving a couple inches off a six foot pole for an adult, or hacking away a foot more or for kids, the debate between the Full-Length Stick fans and proponents of Cutting Down Longsticks is always a good one. Each side has some valid points!
First we need to address the cost issue, and remove as much of the concern here as we can. Cutting down longsticks can be expensive, but not because it costs much money to cut a stick down. It can be expensive because if you cut a stick down too much, there is no way to re-lengthen the shaft. If you just dropped big bucks on a shaft, the worry about ruining it will often be in the forefront of your mind. And that’s totally fair. Who wants to run a brand new piece of equipment? No one, that’s who.
So my advice here is simple: If you are going to cut down your longstick, just go slow, and start by chopping off 3-4 inches at most. Then, after you’ve tried the slightly shorter stick, you can cut it down a LITTLE bit more, maybe another 2-3 inches, if you want to. You can repeat that process until you reach a point where the stick now feels comfortable in your hands. Ok, now I’ve gone too far. Let’s get back to answering the basic question that we first asked: Should you even consider cutting down your longstick?
The PROS – Cutting Down Longsticks
I am an adult male. I cut down my longstick. I didn’t always do this, but whenever I play pole now, I play with a shorter stick. Even though I stand 6’1″, my longstick is only about 5’6″. In college, I spent four years as a longstick, and never once cut down my shaft. Looking back, I kind of wish I had. I was stronger 12 years (a lot stronger), but wielding a full six foot stick definitely required my full strength at times. Sticks have gotten lighter in recent years, but even big poles can find a longstick to be an unwieldy item, especially if they have less experience with it. And this is where the majority of the rationale for cutting down longsticks comes from.
A shorter stick is easier to manage. This is true for me, and it’s true for people smaller than me. Checks can be thrown with a little more ease, and you lose the unwieldy nature of the stick when defending. I also find that I don’t overextend as much on defense when I use a cut down longstick. I’m more realistic about the checks I can throw, and I use my feet more to play defense. My approach is better, and I am more aware of my man off-ball, because I don’t have that full six-foot reach at my disposal. Some of this is because of the stick being shorter, and some of it is probably just my mind playing tricks on me. But hey, if it works for me…
Another aspect of a shorter stick being easier to manage really only applies to kids. Typically, kids are not as strong as adults. Sure, there are some strong kids out there, but most in high school or below are still developing, and smaller on average than they will be later in life. A high school or youth football is a different size than a pro ball. A youth baseball bat is lighter and smaller than a college bat. Soccer goals are different sizes for kids in many places. Youth hockey players use much shorter sticks than their high school counterparts. Many lacrosse-playing 12 year olds don’t wear size 13″ gloves, so why should they be expected to use a full-size longstick? Smaller stuff for kids, many of whom are smaller, makes sense. As a child grows, you get him bigger cleats, larger shirts, and a longer pole.
A shorter stick also tends to make stick handling, ground balls in traffic, and evading opposing players while in possession of the ball easier. While it’s not a short stick, it does help to have 6-12 less inches of shaft for attackers to swing at. For younger players, who are often less sure of their stick skills, this can really help, but I find a lot of poles benefit from this, while still retaining most of the defensive benefits of a full-size stick. The cut down longstick can also let you throw better checks in close, whereas a full six foot stick can get caught up in tight.
For those that argue that players need to get used to a six foot pole, I have two answers. 1) There is no rule that players at any level HAVE to use full six foot sticks. Players in high school, college, and even post-collegiate, can cut their sticks down if they want. 2) To me, a 5′ tall kid using a 5′ tall stick actually prepares them BETTER to use a 6′ stick when they are 6′ tall. The proportions stay the same, reach increases as size and speed increases, and when the player is stronger, a larger stick is more manageable. That’s a progression that actually makes sense.
[fvplayer src=”https://youtube.com/watch?v=BxIznkdwlfo” splash=”https://i.ytimg.com/vi/BxIznkdwlfo/hqdefault.jpg” caption=”How To Cut A Lacrosse Shaft – #LaxHacks”]
Check out the LaxAllStars YouTube Channel for more great lacrosse video!
The CONS – Cutting Down Longsticks
I covered cost as well as I could, but it comes up here, simply because it’s a risk. So if you are going to cut down your pole, PLEASE go slowly, only a couple inches at a time. Worst case scenario is you go too far and have a fancy new short stick. Still, do your best to avoid this. Whoever pays for your gear will not be happy if you ruin a good piece of equipment by rushing.
An on-field negative is losing some of your reach. I cut six inches off one of my poles, and the first time I used it, I felt like I had lost my reach. Checks I used to just land were now missing by what seemed like a large distance. Thankfully, those were terrible checks I shouldn’t have been throwing in the first place. So for me, this loss of reach was a positive. But if you’re playing well now with a full-size pole, and you land good checks and don’t throw bad checks, then losing some of your current reach could hurt you. If you find the longstick a bit unwieldy, that probably means you do throw some bad checks. That’s ok, it’s why we’re here.
With a longer stick you can also throw passes over and around opposing players, and you can grab ground balls a little further away. The full six feet give a great cushion if you can throw a great poke check and already play perfect position defense. It also allows you to throw more outlandish checks, and if you truly are gifted with a pole, the full six feet are terrifying. And finally, if you knock down a lot of passes, you might want the full six feet. It can a great tool if you’re good with it, so certain players might like it for that reason.
So What Should I DO?
You’re going to hate this answer as much as you love it. You need to do what’s right for you. So think about your game, and how your stick functions for you. Do you throw a lot of poke checks? Are you as tall as your stick or taller? Do you pick off a lot of passes? Can you easily pick up a ground ball without choking up on the stick? Can you do 25 push ups in a row? Are you older than 12? If you answered yes to most of the questions above, you might be good to go with your current 6’pole. If you answered no to a couple, you might want to consider playing with something just a little shorter.
Try a six foot pole for a while, and then borrow a friend’s 5’6″ pole for a couple days and try it out. If you like it, cut your stick down 2-3 inches and use it like that for a couple weeks. If you want go shorter at that point, go a little shorter. Unless rules say otherwise, the shortest I would go is about 8 inches below the player’s height. If the kid is 5’8″, a 5′ pole is about as short as I would go.
Could a 5′ tall kid play with a six foot pole? Possibly! I can’t rule that out. I played with a guy in college who was 5’7″ and he was way better than I was with that crazy old six footer. He threw a mean can opener with it and it worked for him. So all I’m saying is try some new things, keep an open mind, and find what works FOR YOU. It doesn’t matter about what is perceived as cool or normal in this situation… what’s cool is being good at lacrosse, and who wants to be normal?
Players have been cutting down their longsticks (and not cutting them down) for decades. Neither is right or wrong for full grown players, but younger kids will definitely benefit from using a shorter stick.